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Inside, confidential and off the record


Nauert who ?


Alex Brandon / AP

The appointment of Heather Nauert underscores Trump's disdain for the world body.


Trump picks the former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert as his U.N. Ambassador

ver the past seven decades, some of the biggest names in American history have represented the United States at the United Nations, the most influential global institution. The congressman George H. W. Bush, who became U.N. Ambassador in 1971, went on to be President. Adlai Stevenson had already been the governor of Illinois and a Presidential candidate before he went to the U.N. Arthur Goldberg had been a member of John Kennedy's cabinet and a Supreme Court Justice. William Scranton had been the governor of Pennsylvania and a member of Congress. Tom Pickering had a storied diplomatic career as Ambassador to Israel, Jordan, El Salvador, and Nigeria before he went to the U.N., and, afterward, was Ambassador to Russia and India. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had held senior positions in the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford Administrations. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., had been the Ambassador to Germany and South Vietnam before the U.N.; he went on to be Richard Nixon's Vice-Presidential running mate. Before Samantha Power became U.N. Ambassador, she was the founding director of Harvard's Carr Center on Human Rights, and won the Pulitzer Prize for her book documenting U.S. foreign-policy responses to genocide. The legendary diplomat Richard Holbrooke had brokered a peace treaty to end the Bosnian war.

Now the United States is slated to be represented by Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor whose experience in American diplomacy is limited to nineteen months as the spokeswoman for the State Department. It was her first job in government. President Trump made the announcement as he prepared to board Marine One for a trip to Missouri on Friday morning. “She's very talented, very smart, very quick, and I think she's going to be respected by all,” he told reporters.

It's hard to think of any American nominated for the lofty post who has had less experience in navigating existential issues of war and peace. Critics had cited the outgoing U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, for her limited foreign-policy experience. But as a former governor of South Carolina who served three terms in the state legislature, she was nationally recognized as a major political player, even as a future Presidential contender. Nauert is an unknown beyond the wonky halls of the State Department. “However trusted and competent the candidate, the job is not one to throw in an inexperienced-in-foreign-policy nominee,” the former U.N. Ambassador Tom Pickering told me.

Nauert is better known for her sharp elbows, tart tongue, and flippant responses during briefings at the State Department. One correspondent described her as smart—with the aid of a binder loaded with talking points—but “snippy.” She took grief from the media for her comment in June that seemed to confuse the state of U.S.-German relations during the Second World War. “When you talk about Germany, we have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany,” she said at a briefing. “Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government.”

The appointment underscores Trump's disdain for the world body. The position—which has had cabinet status—is also reportedly being downgraded. Nauert must be confirmed by the Senate, a process that is likely to be contentious given the widespread skepticism about her qualifications. Her past experience includes reading for a major role in a Robert De Niro movie. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, she gained fame as one of the conservative “pundettes” who pontificated about President Clinton on television. She once told the Washington Post that, at the age of sixteen, she had known that she wanted to be on television. In a profile, from 2000, the Post questioned whether she deserved even that. “Who the heck is Heather Nauert? Why, other than looking like the younger sister of another Heather (Locklear), is she on TV at all?” the critic Paul Farhi wrote . “From what well of life-shaping experiences do our anointed dispensers of video wisdom draw their opinions?”

Nauert, a political appointee, had a strained relationship with her first boss at the State Department, former Secretary Rex Tillerson. She did not always travel with him on foreign trips, uncommon for the spokesperson of America's top diplomat. Since he was fired, in March, her rise has been meteoric. As an undersecretary, she has been in charge of public diplomacy , which includes improving America's image abroad through outreach to allies and more than two hundred and seventy overseas missions. She has travelled frequently with the current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, including to North Korea.

Nauert's appointment as U.N. Ambassador came as Tillerson finally broke his silence about his falling out with President Trump. “We did not have a common value system,” Tillerson told CBS's Bob Schieffer at a fund-raiser, in Houston, on Thursday night. “When the President would say, ‘Well, here's what I want to do. And here's how I want to do it.' And I'd have to say to him, ‘Well, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law; it violates a treaty.' You know. He got really frustrated.”

Tillerson, a former oil-industry executive, detailed his dysfunctional relationship with the President on foreign policy. “What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented ExxonMobil corporation” was “to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.' ” Tillerson was candid about the split. “I think he grew tired of me being the guy every day that told him, ‘You can't do that. And let's talk about what we can do.' ” Tillerson had reportedly called Trump a “moron” behind his back. He was fired by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, during a diplomatic trip to Africa (and while he was on the toilet with diarrhea, Kelly reportedly told his staff).


Robin Wright / The New Yorker / Dec. 7, 2018

Original article


ISSUES.... 12 / 10 / 2018 - Send Us Your Issues

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